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SCED's speech at a reception in Singapore (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, at a reception for Hong Kong businessmen and prominent local interlocutors in Singapore today (November 13):

Chief Executive, distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good Evening and welcome to this reception.  It is good to see old friends and new acquaintances from Hong Kong and Singapore.

     Indeed, when people talked about Hong Kong and Singapore, they often talk with a sense of competition.   And I suppose this is not hard to understand because we are both small but vibrant economies, scarce of natural resources and compete in the world with highly sophisticated service industries.  I have heard some people even debating which city offers the best Hainan chicken rice!

     Notwithstanding that perception, actually I would like to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that Hong Kong and  Singapore are really close partners in trade and investment.  We are each other's major trading partner and favourite investment destinations.  Some companies have such strong presence in both of our cities that it would be hard for anyone in the street to tell whether they are originated from Hong Kong or from Singapore.

     In the international fora, Hong Kong and Singapore are also close allies in promoting free trade.  We fought shoulder to shoulder in the WTO on many fronts to advance the Doha Development Agenda negotiations.  In APEC, we joined hands in developing a full framework for enhancing the regional connectivity along supply chains, clearing bottlenecks that choke the flow of goods from the producer to the consumer.  

     Trade across the Pacific has grown tremendously in the past decade.  And many perceive that trade in the Asia-Pacific region would rise out of the current economic crisis and outpace growth elsewhere.  Thanks to the relentless work of APEC to liberalise and facilitate trade and investment, and to lock in a business-friendly environment and mindset.  And that's why we attach great emphasis and importance to the APEC as a regional forum for us.  I thank Singapore for hosting APEC this year which has proven to be a very productive and fruitful year.  Next year, industrialised member economies of APEC are to reach the visionary goal of free and open trade and investment, laid down by our Leaders in Bogor in 1994.  

     And this long journey of trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation in APEC was never smooth and plain.  We overcame the Asian Financial Crisis, the brutal terrorist attacks, several pandemics, and we are still working hard to steer our economy out of the financial tsunami.  Each of these events had profound impact on our constituencies, especially the vulnerable, and threatened the pursuit of free trade.  We are glad that APEC members have shown the courage to fight domestic protectionist demands, and refrained from falling back to the beggar-thy-neighbour policy.  Rather, they acted fast to clear the clot in the credit markets to ensure financing for trade keeps flowing.  They stood together to pledge their strongest support to the ambitious and balanced conclusion to the multilateral negotiations under way.  More importantly, they put forth a new paradigm of growth that is inclusive and sustainable.

     And I am sure, with a more certain path and prospect of growth, the business community in both Hong Kong and Singapore will find new opportunities and break new ground, not only in the APEC region, but also in the global marketplace.  To ensure a solid foundation for growth, we will, as in the past, chart new courses hand in hand with the business community, not least the APEC Business Advisory Council.  Hong Kong will ensure certainty and transparency in our trade policies, and strive to get the freest market, market access possible in trade negotiations to facilitate international business.  

     Ladies and Gentlemen, riding on this very auspicious occasion, I have a happy news to share. I am glad to announce that we have just struck a deal with New Zealand on Closer Economic Partnership.  This new development will enable Hong Kong and New Zealand to enter a new stage of cooperation in trade and investment.

     And at this point, may I now invite the Honourable Donald Tsang, our Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Mrs Tsang, and Miss Yvonne Choi, Permanent Secretary, to come on to the stage and propose a toast.  

     So, let us raise our glass and cheers! To Hong Kong People!  

Ends/Friday, November 13, 2009
Issued at HKT 21:27


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